In high school, did you join the club the "cool kids" were in rather than the one you wanted to join that wasn't so cool?
In college, did you major in your parents' chosen subject instead of what you wanted to learn about?
We're not in high school or college any more, but we still find ourselves looking for approval from others, following others' standards and -- still -- suffering so much from the fear of being different and standing out.
You LOVE those bright red shoes in the store window, but you can't imagine what your husband would say if you bought them. Clown shoes? (Been there.)
You'd like to change your diet and cut out meat, but the manly-men you hang around with give you such a hard time whenever they spot you eating tofu, you don't think you can deal with their crap.
You know your presentations are boring the heck out of your audiences, but change is scary. Doing something different is scary. And holy moly - standing out is REALLY scary. So you keep hiding your true personality. You keep your message and your commentary on the safe side. You keep presenting the same dense PowerPoint bullets, the same crummy animation, or the same tiny unreadable font they see every day and dread sitting through.
I could go on and on. And I bet you could give me ten or a hundred examples of the times you've held yourself back in your life. All the times you didn't do something because you feared being judged and criticized more than you valued your own happiness and fulfillment.
Let me just ask you this: Whose life are you living, anyway? Are you living to please other people or is your life your own?
Maybe this seems a little dramatic, when all I'm going to ask you to do is be bold and courageous with your presentations.
But every time you stand up in front of an audience, it's a chance to change minds.
It's a chance to make an impact.
It's a chance to transform even one person's life.
It's a chance to raise money for your cause.
It's a chance to show your boss that you're a rock star.
It's a chance to show the world that you know what the hell you're talking about and that they need to hear what you have to say.
What your audience wants is to be engaged, to hear something original, to feel motivated and excited and inspired. Your stale old PowerPoint template riddled with logos and 90s clipart just won't cut it -- even if that's exactly what everyone else is presenting.
Want to fit in? Watch out: you'll fit in so well, you'll become invisible. And besides certain superheroes for whom being invisible is a distinct asset, it doesn't work for normal humans who want to get their message out to the world.
Next time you start to get that tingly, excited feeling about your presentation, when your brain starts to flow with ideas, and when you feel like you can't wait to sit down and tell your story, don't let that feeling get away. Go with it! Experiment. Play. Do it! Give the audience a great experience along with great value.
If you don't get that tingly feeling when you think about your next presentation, dig deep. Think about what you love about this topic. Why do you do the work you do? What message is really critical for your audience to hear? If you could just sit down with one person and tell them all about it, what would you say?
Some of the ways I get inspired to get out of my comfortable and conventional mindset when writing or speaking include:
1. Working out
Being out in nature, breathing in oxygen and getting the blood flowing always kickstarts my brain. When I stop trying so hard to think creatively, that's when the ideas kick in.
2. Watching entertainers
As speakers, we have a lot in common with entertainers of all kinds. Whether I'm watching TV, a movie or a concert, I'm constantly inspired by how the best entertainers are so real and comfortable in their own skin, and have their own unique style and way of communicating their message with the audience.
3. Making it about the audience
Whenever I start working on a presentation, I continually ask myself, "What is the audience going to get out of this activity, story, image, analogy, etc.?" This alone will ensure that you're not just making slides for your own benefit (to read as notes) or throwing every single detail about your topic into the presentation at the risk of drowning your audience.
When you constantly keep your audience's interests, engagement and experience at the top of your list of presentation to-dos, you will be more inclined to stay away from the clichéd and the expected.
Find a way to trigger your creativity and originality. Find that spark, that love of your work or topic that you used to have when you couldn't wait to jump out of bed every morning to start your day, and build your presentation around that.
Pretty soon that spark will catch fire, and you won't care who sees it. You'll find yourself on stage, not holding anything back, giving your best presentation yet!
Are you fed up with sitting in presentations that have no energy, no engagement, no love, no soul?
Presentations that are irrelevant, boring, tedious and that suck the life right out of you, like some alien parasite from outer space?
Well, you can't change another speaker, but you can change yourself.
Just like your favorite superhero, you can rescue the audience from the routine and repetitious and save the audience from the stale and stodgy.
You can liberate audiences from those dastardly presentations where speakers just don't care, where they show up like zombies in body but not in spirit, and they haven't got the faintest interest in actually serving their audience.
If you're ready to rise above the status quo and deliver bold and courageous messages, then join me for the Audience Avenger Alliance, a new membership program for speakers -- veterans and newbies -- who are looking for a new and different way to create awesome experiences for their audiences.